This is my last post for D.C. Schools Insider. As some of you already know, I’ve accepted an assignment to help out with The Post’s presidential campaign coverage.
The schools beat was more than an interesting job; it was a privilege. That’s what made the decision to leave after four years so difficult. People sometimes ask me whether Michelle Rhee’s departure made the story less compelling. My view is that while the post-Rhee days may lack the drama 2007-10, there remains no more important story in the District than the fate of public education.
I see it as a book with the chapters barely half-written. Charter schools continue their growth, but can they lift their quality in a way that dramatically differentiates them from traditional public schools? DCPS, with many more buildings than it needs for its 46,000 students, faces another downsizing. Will it emerge smaller and more robust, or just smaller, leading to a public school enrollment that is majority charter? As the Gray Administration implodes in scandal, can Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson continue to drive the ambitious agenda she described in her five-year plan? Will D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby shine any meaningful light on what happened to D.C. test scores in the Rhee era?
DCPS teachers are now among the best paid and most closely evaluated in the country. But does it mean that the system is keeping its best instructors? What do students have to show for all the new rigor and resources? Can educators and policymakers find a way to place the best teachers in front of the students who need them the most? What difference will the much touted Common Core Standards actually make? Will mayoral control of schools, which reached the five-year mark last month, ever get a clear-eyed and fair evaluation?
I’d like to thank everyone — students, teachers, parents, administrators and colleagues at the paper--who helped me. I know I missed the mark on some stories, but I would have missed a lot more without your contributions. I hope you’ll school my replacement the way you schooled me.